March 30, 2015

Ron Koertge

TOWN CRIER

We decide we need one. We’ve got gas lamps and hitching posts. People get off the freeway for the crafts fair. At first Tom didn’t want to wear the red vest and the rest of it. But we figured in for a penny, in for a pound. He looks good, wig and all. Just portly enough. Big, loud voice. Colorful, really. Good sport. Poses with the tourists. Takes the job seriously. Too seriously. We tell him, “Tom, go on home now. It’s late.” Keeps walking, keeps ringing that bell. “It’s midnight, Tom.” He says, “Shut up. That’s my job.” Every hour on the hour. The whole town’s awake. There’s an emergency meeting. The young men want to grab him, stuff a sock in his mouth. That’s a last resort. A lot of us grew up with Tom. Father D’Ambrosio says to pray to Saint Anthony because we’ve essentially lost Tom. A little late for that, padre. No offense. The mayor sends a few of us to reason with him. We’re in our pajamas, sort of like the burghers of Calais. Nobody can sleep so lights are on. People we know are reading. Eating soup. They wave. A lot of us haven’t been up this late in a long time. The orbiting moon, not yellow but white as a new shirt. Our wives are at home, so we can smoke. Arnie’s hand falls onto my shoulder and stays there. We hear Tom two blocks away crooning, “All’s well.”

from Rattle #46, Winter 2014

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Ron Koertge: “Tucson, Arizona. Graduate school. 1962. Gerry Locklin shows me some poems of his in The Wormwood Review. The whole magazine knocked my socks off and I said to him, ‘I’ll bet I could write poems like these.’ He said, ‘Give it a try.’ I wrote a few, showed them to him, he gave me some advice, and I put them in the mail. I was 23 or so then, 73 or so now and still at it.” (website)